It’s a bit of a shock when you first have to get your breasts out in public to feed your newborn, at least it was for me.
I have a vivid memory of my teenage self first realising that my breasts – which were beginning to grow large – were attracting unwanted male attention. I was walking down the street when I heard builders wolf-whistling and felt afraid and violated when I realised their leers were directed towards me.
As Laura Bates has illustrated so conclusively in her Everyday Sexism work many many women, perhaps all, recall experiences of unwanted attention and violation. So the idea of actually undoing my clothes in public to use my breasts for their intended purpose – namely feeding my child was daunting in the beginning to say the least.
And it was made even more so by the fact that breast feeding had proved a little more challenging than I had hoped. Some slightly conceited part of me had made (incorrect) assumptions about large breasts making feeding easier.
In fact I was still getting the hang of breast feeding when the (also incorrect) story broke that the Sun had given up on Page 3. Somehow the increased attention I was being forced to pay to my breast’s actual function (I.e. milk production which is life sustaining for a newborn child) brought breast issues in to sharper focus for me.
How did we get to a situation where newspapers print bare chests for ‘amusement’ but feeding your new born to provide essential nourishment is something some feel justified in frowning upon? I don’t need to remind you of the Claridge’s case, the comments of Farage or any other painful examples for you to (hopefully) understand the irony.
I for one am beginning to understand now, something which I wish I could have known and felt proud as that afraid teenage girl, that breasts are incredible – they provide – when all goes well (and I know that sometimes it doesn’t) essential food for our children – in short they have, for millennia, provided food which enabled the survival of the human race.
It’s mind blowing to think that such a powerful means if production is sold so cheaply, and in such an out of context way, as daily amusement. To imagine that anyone thinks that breast feeding should somehow be hidden away while the Sun is sold on every street corner goes to the very depths of what is wrong in the state we are in.
I’ve got used to ‘getting my tits out’ now be it in the park or on the tube, whenever my baby is hungry. Whilst I do wish I’d been better prepared for how hard the early days were, ultimately I am in awe of my body as I take in and witness each day, the reality that it is capable of growing and feeding it’s young. It seems to me that the power to do that is both sacred and ordinary. Somehow magical.